Help For The Holidays And Beyond

A leader of St. Louis Community Credit Union shares how the cooperative works every day to be “the social conscience of banking.”

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • St. Louis Community Credit Union offers a range of lending and savings products to help during the holidays and beyond.
  • The cooperative also offers coaching and other services for the St. Louis region through an affiliate.

CU QUICK FACTS

St. Louis Community CU
Data as of 9.30.18

HQ: St. Louis, MO
ASSETS: $287.5M
MEMBERS: 59,856
BRANCHES: 17
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 9.9%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 14.8%
ROA: 1.31%

Paul Woodruff serves as vice president of community development for St. Louis Community Credit Union ($287.5M, St. Louis, MO) and its financial wellness affiliate, Prosperity Connection.

Woodruff, who began his career as a teller at SLCCU, focuses on strategic relationships that fund the activities of both SLCCU and Prosperity Connection and support the credit union’s membership and the broader community.

SLCCU’s motto is “We are the social conscience of banking.” Woodruff’s dual role speaks to SLCCU’s commitment to providing critical financial services in the St. Louis metro area, especially in underbanked and lower income communities.

The holidays are a particularly stressful time of year for individuals and families already feeling financial stress. Here Woodruff explains in his own words how SLCCU and Prosperity Connection offer help for the holidays and beyond.

 

 

 

Products And Services

Paul Woodruff, Vice President of Community Development, St. Louis Community Credit Union

We employ a variety of products and services to help members in their journey to financial health, especially during the holidays. These include, but are not limited to:

Holiday Club Account — We make holiday savings easier by providing a special account for members to a earn competitive interest rate on money socked away for holiday spending. The credit union automatically transfers the balance of the account to a regular savings or checking account in November. Currently, SLCCU has 2,336 Holiday Club accounts with $1.2 million in total savings.

Save To Prosper (Prize-Linked Savings) — This account provides a safe place to save money plus the chance to win cash prizes. For every $25 balance increase in month-over-month savings, account holders earn an entry to win one of five $100 cash prizes. There’s a maximum of four entries per month, and at the end of the calendar year, one randomly selected winner receives a one-time $2,000 cash prize. Currently, SLCCU has 389 Save to Prosper accounts with $136,000 in total savings.

Skip-A-Payment — Qualified members who have an auto or signature loan can pay a $25 fee to skip their December payment and put those dollars toward holiday expenses. The credit union extends the term of the loan by one month, and the interest continues to accrue on the loan. To qualify for the program, loans must be at least three months old, the original loan balance must exceed $600, the member must be current on all loans, share accounts must have a positive balance, and the monthly loan payment must be at least $50. Last year, approximately 800 members participated in the December skip-a-payment promotion.

Holiday Auto Refinance — Members who have an auto loan with another lender can refinance it at a lower rate with SLCCU and earn cash back. For every $10,000 refinanced, the credit union pays the member $100, with a total program benefit cap of $300. The credit union puts money back into our members’ pockets through the cash incentive as well as through a lower rate or payment.

Unsecured Holiday Loan — The Holiday Loan is an unsecured, credit-based loan that allows members to borrow up to $15,000 at 9.95%-22.9%, much lower than that of a payday/installment lender. In Missouri, the average for that type of loan is 460%.  

Click the tabs below to view pictures.

Financial coach Alnita Smiley, right, and her client Amethyst Brown after a one-on-one coaching session.

Prosperity Connection financial coaches Robert Nelson and Evette Baker lead a class on the basics of money management.

Gathered here at an annual celebration for community partners of Prosperity Connection are financial coaches, from left, Allyn Dault, Sara Middendorf, Evette Baker, Alnita Smiley, and Robert Nelson.

Financial coach Robert Nelson conducts a session with a client.

Financial Wellness

We also employ a variety of approaches throughout the year to help members achieve financial wellness. When members are financially capable — meaning they have both the knowledge to manage their finances and the tools to achieve their goals — they are positioned to thrive. 

We offer several resources to members as they work to maintain healthy personal finances, including:

Credit Check-Up — We encourage members to meet one-on-one with member service representatives for a credit check-up. The check-up includes a free copy of their credit report with their score as well as an overview of what comprises the credit score, tips on ways to build credit, and referrals to products and services that might help the member improve their credit. Check-ups are available for free any time of the year but are especially useful when members open an account or apply for a loan. We don’t formally track the number of credit check-ups we perform; however, members regularly use the service throughout our branch network. We promote credit check-ups via our website, in printed materials, and through word-of-mouth in the branches.

One-On-One Financial Coaching — Prosperity Connection is a non-profit affiliate partner of St. Louis Community Credit Union. Our primary mission is to help people improve their finances so they may live a fulfilling life. Prosperity Connection has a team of six financial coaches that meet with participants for free to assess their financial situation; establish financial goals, such as pay down debt, improve their credit score, or purchase a home; create a plan; and monitor progress. Coaches connect participants to resources, such as the affordable financial products and services SLCCU offers. Prosperity Connection serves 500 to 600 individuals every year through its coaching program. Participants may meet with their coach as many times as they choose; however, the average number of sessions per year is two to three. 

Financial Workshops — Prosperity Connection also hosts more than 100 free financial workshops throughout the year on topics like credit, budgeting, home-buying, and more. This time of year, classes tailored to holiday spending are popular. For example, Prosperity Connection has offered a class titled “Black Friday Budgeting” for the past six years to help participants think about their holiday spending, equip them with the tools and knowledge to plan for shopping, and encourage them to evaluate spending decisions.

Prosperity Connection

I’ve been executive director of Prosperity Connection for five years. We’re a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization formed in 2009 by the board of directors of St. Louis Community Credit Union. We serve a primarily low-income population base throughout the greater St. Louis area, and in addition to financial coaching, we provide low-cost, small-dollar loans as an affordable alternative to predatory payday loans.

The 18-person team at Prosperity Connection operates programs that benefit SLCCU members, customers of other financial institutions, clients of partner social service agencies, and residents of the St. Louis region. We’ve built relationships with funders from the public, private, and philanthropic sectors, including SLCCU, the local banking community, and a number of charitable foundations and individuals.

Prosperity Connection has reached more than 50,000 people though its services. It employs a robust client tracking system that captures client demographics and measures individual metrics such as credit score, debt, and much more. During the first three quarters of 2018, our financial coaches helped clients achieve the following:

  • 19 assets purchased (16 homes and three cars).
  • $7,203 contributed toward savings.
  • $391,359 in decreased debt.
  • 25.2 average credit score increase.
  • 160 referrals to non-profit agencies that assist clients in overcoming life challenges such as food insecurity, workforce training, and health care.

The Holidays, The New Year, And Beyond

Financial health knows no season. Prosperity Connection offers free financial coaching and classes throughout the year. Our team of coaches work tirelessly year-round to connect clients with resources and help them build the financial acumen to navigate financial situations on their own with confidence. During the holidays, our coaching staff works closely with SLCCU and partner social service agencies to help people struggling to make ends meet amid rising utility bills, holiday spending, and other life events.

The New Year is an excellent time for credit union management to assess the cooperative’s ability to support member financial health, gather information, and train staff. Front-line staff see the good, bad, and ugly of member interactions. They hear the hard stories of personal financial struggle. Understanding what front-line staff hear on a daily basis helps institutions implement targeted, effective training, introduce products, and intervene in ways that help members, drive income, and create an inclusive work environment. 

Credit unions also should encourage their members to use the upcoming tax season as an opportunity to save. This is especially true for low- and moderate-income members who receive a cash influx via their tax refund. Many households tend to spend, or save, without a plan. Credit unions should encourage thoughtful savings for long-term goals and the strategic paying down of existing debt. 

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Dec. 17, 2018


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